Yellow African Violet Leaves: What To Do When African Violet Leaves Are Yellow

Yellow African Violet Leaves: What To Do When African Violet Leaves Are Yellow

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

African violets are a houseplant with many seasons of beauty. These small plants grace the home with their classic tiny violet blooms but also come in other colors and double petal varieties. The plants have a few peccadilloes regarding water and fertilizer, but are otherwise easy to grow. When African violet leaves are yellow, the plant is signaling that it has either a shortage or excess of something. Knowing how to take care of yellowing African violets can minimize the effect, but lower leaf yellowing is a natural part of the growth process and not a cause for worry.

Common Reasons for Yellow African Violet Leaves

African violet leaves usually only live for about a year. It’s a common trait for the older leaves to fade and turn yellow before they die and drop off, leaving room for new foliage. If the lower leaves are not the only ones turning yellow, it’s time to investigate a few potential causes. Cultural care, lighting or disease may all be potential reasons for African violet leaves turning yellow.

Water issues – One of the biggest explanations when African violet leaves are yellow is incorrect watering practices. The leaves don’t tolerate water directly on them, and the foliage will respond by developing yellow or bleached, necrotic spots or ring spot.

When the water is warmer or colder than the leaf itself, the cells inside collapse and the leaf becomes discolored. There is no cure for the leaf, but you can avoid future damage by watering under the leaves. There are even special watering cans for African violets with longer stems to reach the soil surface under the foliage. You can also minimize damage by using room temperature water.

Lighting – African violet plants don’t perform well in direct light and strong sun; however, they do need light to produce energy and form flowers. The best site is a southeast or west window. Place the plant 3 feet (91 cm.) away from the window for best light.

Plants that are grown further inside the home or in an office under unnatural lighting will turn yellow on the edges. This is a signal that the plant isn’t getting sufficient light. Leaves will recover if you move the plant to a brighter location in indirect light.

Fertilizing – Lack of food is another cause of African violet leaves turning yellow. The condition indicates the plant may need supplemental feeding to produce deep green, fuzzy leaves. Use a food prepared for African violets and dilute it according to the directions.

Fertilize once per month in the growing season. To prevent over-fertilizing, drench the soil four times per year to remove excess salts.

How to Take Care of Yellowing African Violets

In addition to drenching the soil, it’s necessary to repot your plant at least every two years. The soil will gradually lose its nutrient content and texture, making it difficult for the plant to uptake water and food.

Use an appropriate mixture, which is usually sphagnum peat moss with some vermiculite. African violets don’t do well in traditional potting soil.

If your home has low humidity, place the potted plant on a saucer filled with pebbles and a small amount of water. Change the water every few days to minimize gnats.

Pinch off old leaves and remove spent blooms to encourage new growth.

With good lighting, watering and occasional food, your African violet should be back in the pink — or rather green, again.

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African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha) are adaptable, but even the hardiest plants can start to wilt if conditions aren't right. Often, simple fixes or changes in plant care restore plant health. African violets range in size from dainty 6-inch plants to impressive plants measuring 16 inches or more. The blooms are just as diverse, including single, double, fringed or ruffled petals in various shades of purple, red, blue, violet, lavender and white. Although African violets are almost always grown indoors, they are suitable for outdoor growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 and 12.


Try to keep the soil slightly moist. Not soggy, but don’t let it get completely dried out, either.

Water your plants with room-temperature (or even a bit warmer) water. Be careful not to splash water on the leaves, or it may leave ugly spots, especially if the water is cool. Here are options for watering the soil while keeping the leaves dry:

• Water from the top, but use a watering can with a long, slender spout. The spout will help you direct the water onto the soil and not splatter on the leaves.

• Fill a saucer with water and set the pot in it. Let the soil soak up the water until it’s just moist, then remove. (You want the soil to get damp but not soggy—root rot is a danger for African violets in particular.)

I have only had good luck with this method when using terra cotta pots, which help absorb the water up into the soil. A hole in a glazed ceramic or plastic pot, I’ve found, isn’t enough to get the soil wet up to the roots. At least not in what I consider a reasonable amount of time. To speed the process, a planter wick can be placed in the bottom of the pot. This is simply a fabric string that runs from inside the pot out the bottom and into the water. It serves to wick the water up into the pot.

• Use a specially made African violet pot. These are basically an outer pot/inner pot combination. To water, remove the inner pot (containing the African violet) and place water in the outer pot. Replace the inner pot. The soil will absorb water from the outer pot. (Some African violet pots have wicks, too.) As soon as the soil is moist, take out the inner pot, dump the water, and replace the inner pot.

The lower leaves on my African violet have turned yellow and become droopy. What could be wrong?

The lower leaves on my African violet have turned yellow and become droopy. What could be wrong?

The symptoms suggest the African violet may have root rot. Root rot symptoms initially develop on the lower leaves. The lower leaves turn yellow and droop. As the root rot progresses, affected leaves turn brown and become mushy. Over time, the symptoms spread upward. Plants may eventually die if growing conditions are poor and no corrective actions are taken.

Root rots are usually caused by overwatering. African violets prefer an evenly moist soil. They don’t like wet or dry potting soils. In wet situations, root rot fungi gradually destroy the African violet’s roots, causing the plant to decline.

Prevention is the best defense against root rot. Allow the soil surface to dry to the touch before watering African violets. Also, select a light, well-drained potting mix when potting or repotting African violets.

Why are the leaves on my African violets turning yellow?

Limp and Yellowing Leaves on African Violets. Warm the water and eliminate the salt if your African violet has limp leaves that eventually yellow and drop off. Use room temperature water to avoid cold damage to the leaves. Then check for a white crusty substance on the soil surface or plant container.

Furthermore, how often do African violets need to be watered? Examine the soil with your fingertip, if it feels dry, be ready to water the plant. They require more or less water depending on what type of potting soil you use. However, flush the soil thoroughly with water every month or 6 weeks. This will reduce the risk of any harmful salts to build-up in the land.

Keeping this in consideration, why do African violet leaves turn pale?

Powdery mildew afflicts African violets. In severe cases, the leaves become covered with a powdery, white to pale gray coating. High humidity and poor air circulation contribute to the spread of this disease, which begins with a few isolated leaf spots.

What color should African violet leaves be?